The Impact of Incident Disclosure Behaviors on Medical Malpractice Claims

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Abstract

Objectives

To provide preliminary estimates of incident disclosure behaviors on medical malpractice claims.

Methods

We conducted a descriptive analysis of data on medical malpractice claims obtained from the Controlled Risk Insurance Company and Risk Management Foundation of Harvard Medical Institutions (Cambridge, Massachusetts) between 2012 and 2013 (n = 434). The characteristics of disclosure and apology after medical errors were analyzed.

Results

Of 434 medical malpractice claims, 4.6% (n = 20) medical errors had been disclosed to the patient at the time of the error, and 5.9% (n = 26) had been followed by disclosure and apology. The highest number of disclosed injuries occurred in 2011 (23.9%; n = 11) and 2012 (34.8%; n = 16). There was no incremental increase during the financial years studied (2012–2013). The mean age of informed patients was 52.96 years, 58.7 % of the patients were female, and 52.2% were inpatients. Of the disclosed errors, 26.1% led to an adverse reaction, and 17.4% were fatal. The cause of disclosed medical error was improper surgical performance in 17.4% (95% confidence interval, 6.4-28.4). Disclosed medical errors were classified as medium severity in 67.4%. No apology statement was issued in 54.5% of medical errors classified as high severity.

Conclusions

At the health-care centers studied, when a claim followed a medical error, providers infrequently disclosed medical errors or apologized to the patient or relatives. Most of the medical errors followed by disclosure and apology were classified as being of high and medium severity. No changes were detected in the volume of lawsuits over time.

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